Who knew that being a cheapskate could actually be such fun?
How did I become such a cheapskate? I mean, I was never one before. In fact, I have a horror of mean people. Like most folks I love getting a bargain, and I'll save for it and buy it rather than haggle.
I'm not a complete miser. I love buying people presents and enjoy treating family members to nice meals out. However, I have resorted to taking stuff from people's skips.
My friend Alice does this all the time. She is the queen of mean. She thrives on spending almost nothing. It's like a game to her. Indeed, it was Alice who advised me to go to the local supermarket at around 8pm as that's when they usually slash the price of fruit and veg.
It was also Alice who tipped me off about the local salon that looks for hair models on Monday evenings. Alice has never paid full price for a blow dry. She tipped me off about a beauty salon that did half-price tanning and waxing. I took up the tanning offer but gave the waxing a miss. There's no way I'm having some nervous beauty student practise on me, thanks very much.
Alice's spendthrift ways are not always popular. People resent her "first out of the taxi and last to the bar" ways. But Alice doesn't mind. Why should she get into rounds when she doesn't even drink alcohol? Usually tap water will do her on a night out.
You can sneer at Alice all you like (and some do), but she has two mortgage-free properties which is no mean feat in these times. She lives in one and rents out the other. She even rents the spare room in her own home to four Chinese students(on two bunk beds) and they all share a bathroom.
"Is that not a bit busy in the mornings?" I once asked. But she said it was fine as they all do shift work. Three even work in a local Chinese restaurant and bring home free take-aways for Alice.
Despite her penny-pinching, Alice is a good friend. If I ever had a problem, Alice would be the first through the door. She's a good listener (listening doesn't cost a dime) and she has a smile for everyone as smiles are also free.
Alice called over a few months back and said she had a little present for me. I was so shocked I nearly fell off my chair. I couldn't imagine Alice actually going into a shop and buying a handbag for herself, never mind anyone else.
But when she popped over with the bag everything made sense. It was a small red leather handbag that Alice had rescued from a neighbour's skip. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
But then last week as I was walking my son to school I noticed a gorgeous, beautifully-made basket sitting on top of a skip beside the school. That would be perfect in my boy's room, I thought.
Okay, I was a tiny bit mortified removing the item from the rubbish heap. Especially as it was rush hour and people would have been watching from their cars.
But do you know what? It didn't matter. I carried the basket all the way home, proud as punch with my 'purchase'.